Rochester man charged in 2016 death of Wisconsin woman

Her body has not been found.
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Randall Merrick

A Rochester man is accused of killing a Wisconsin woman and hiding her body in 2016. Her body still has not been found.

Randall Q. Merrick, 48, is charged in Buffalo County, Wisconsin, with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in the death of 50-year-old Beth Johnson.

According to the criminal complaint, Johnson was last seen alive on Dec. 25, 2016, in her trailer in Nelson, Wisconsin. She shared the trailer with Merrick, for whom she was a caregiver. The two had previously dated, but were no longer together at the time of her disappearance. 

Johnson was first reported missing by her son, Joel, who called police on March 12, 2017. He said he hadn't seen or heard from his mom since Christmas Day, and no one else except Merrick had heard from her since then, the complaint says. 

There had been evidence of domestic abuse in the fall of 2016 before Johnson's disappearance, the complaint notes. And Merrick used Johnson's debit card in January 2017, after the date she was last seen. 

Investigators spoke with Merrick on March 14, 2017, who said Johnson moved out on Feb. 1 of that year to be with her boyfriend in the Twin Cities. Merrick also told Joel his mom moved to be with a boyfriend when Joel called to find out where she was, the complaint states.

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On April 30, 2018, a cadaver dog searched the property where Johnson and Merrick lived, smelling human remains inside a bedroom, utility shed and the victim's car, the complaint says. 

A witness told investigators on July 13, 2018, that Merrick met with them, telling them, while "bawling," that "I didn't mean to hurt her," "I killed her," "I hit her too hard," and told them Johnson's body was in the truck of her car. 

If Merrick is convicted, he could face life in prison. 

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